If you missed the Kentucky Derby or any of the other Triple Crown races, don’t miss out on Pennsylvania’s richest day of thoroughbred racing when you can watch some of the same top ranked horses and famous jockeys from around the country compete in person on Pennsylvania Derby Day, September 25, 2021 at Parx Racing and Casino in Bensalem, PA. Early nominees for the $1 million dollar Pennsylvania Derby include Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit and Louisiana Derby winner, Hot Rod Charlie. After last year’s cancellation of the Pennsylvania Derby due to COVID-19, Pennsylvania’s 2021 Derby Day features two $1 million dollar Grade 1 races, the Pennsylvania Derby and the Cotillion Stakes, along with seven other stakes races on the dirt and turf. The impressive star studded racing card combined with family fun and games in the picnic area guarantees an exciting and competitive day of racing, challenging handicapping, and musical entertainment. Grade 1 races are the highest caliber and most competitive races in the world and include the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup races. According to David Osojnak, the racing secretary at Parx Racing, “we anticipate a tremendous day of racing that will showcase some of the best horses in the country.”

Philadelphia society has a long history and involvement with horse racing, and at the turn of the twentieth century, long before the 1968 legalization of thoroughbred horse racing in Pennsylvania, wealthy Philadelphia aristocrats owned, bred, and raced champion thoroughbreds. George Widener Jr., owner of Erdenheim Farm in Whitemarsh Township, PA, raced five Eclipse award winning horses including Jaipur and Battlefield, and after Widener’s death, his nephew Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr., philanthropist, horseman, and owner of the 76ers, continued the racing tradition at Erdenheim Farm.

Another Pennsylvanian, Samuel Riddle of Glen Riddle, PA owned the legendary Man O’ War, considered by many as the greatest race horse of all times. Also owned by Riddle, War Admiral, a son of Man O’ War, won the Triple Crown in 1937.

Pennsylvania was late to the game of thoroughbred racing compared to New York, Kentucky, or Maryland, nevertheless, Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA hosts two of the richest, top class races in the country. The oldest, the Cotillion Stakes was first held in 1969 at the old Liberty Bell Park in Northeast Philadelphia until 1974 when it moved to the newly opened Keystone Race Track, now Parx. It attracted top fillies from the beginning, and past winners include champions Shuvee, Susan’s Girl, and Havre de Grace. The annual race serves as a prelude to the Breeders’ Cup Championship races held this year at Del Mar in Southern California. The 11/16th mile race on the dirt drew a stellar cast from both coasts, and early nominations include Maracuja, Clairiere, Army Wife, Private Mission, and Crazy Beautiful. Maracuja won the Coaching Club American Oaks, and Army Wife won the George E. Mitchell Black Eyed Susan Stakes and was 3rd in the Alabama Stakes. Clairiere, trained by Steve Asmussen, the leading trainer in North America who set the record for the most wins by a thoroughbred trainer, won the Rachel Alexander and was 2nd in the Alabama. These rivals battled all year, and the Cotillion promises to test your handicapping skills. According to John Servis, trainer of the 2004 Kentucky Derby winner, Smarty Jones, “Pennsylvania Derby Day is definitely the biggest day of thoroughbred racing in our state. It’s the one day when we get some of the best 3 year old horses in the country along with top jockeys and top trainers here at Parx. It’s an exciting day at the races and offers family fun in the picnic area.”

The main event, the Pennsylvania Derby, first held on Memorial Day in 1979 at Keystone Race Track, now Parx, draws some of the most talented 3 year old horses in the nation along with prominent personalities in the sport. In 2010, the race was upgraded to Grade 1 and moved to the last Saturday in September as part of the fall line up to the Breeders’ Cup. Past winners of the Pennsylvania Derby include Summer Squall in 1990, Broad Brush in 1986, Bayern in 2014 who was the eventual winner of the Breeders’ Cup classic, and the latest winner, Math Wizard in 2019. Possible contenders for this year’s 11/8 mile event on the dirt include Life Is Good, winner of the San Felipe Stakes and trained by Todd Pletcher, Hot Rod Charlie, winner of the Louisiana Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes, trained by Doug O’Neil, and the Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert, one of the most recognized and controversial trainers in the sport. Still involved in an ongoing legal battle, Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone after the Kentucky Derby and risks disqualification from first place. Other nominations include Weyburn, winner of the Gotham Stakes and trained by James Jerkens, and First Captain, winner of the Dwyer Stakes, trained by Shug McGaughey III. These top-notch competitive nominees represent racing’s best and ensure an action-packed day at the races.

In addition to horse racing, Pennsylvania Derby Day is packed with family fun including horseshoe decorating, games for kids, live music, a DJ, BBQ, and food and drink specials. Souvenir Parx merchandise is available, and the track is giving away free PA Derby hats while supplies last. The first race runs at 12:05 P.M., and live television coverage on WPHL -17 starts at 4:P.M. and continues until 6 P.M.  At the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby, Elliott Walden, CEO of WinStar Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, a leading thoroughbred racing, stallion, and breeding farm, remarked, “I’m excited to be here and see the crowds and all the excitement and the many racing fans in Pennsylvania.” After canceling last year’s derby day races, hopefully, the excitement will continue on the 2021 Pennsylvania Derby Day.

If you can’t make it in person, the day will be covered by a network of television stations from around the state. TV stations in the network include WPHL-17 (Philadelphia), WPNT-22 (Pittsburgh), WHP-TV (Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York) and WQMY-TV (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). The broadcast team will be headed by Dick Jerardi, one of the premier thoroughbred racing reporters in the
nation, and Neil Hartman, a long-time sports anchor. Veteran racing reporters Caton Bredar and Maggie Wolfendale will report from the field.

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